Life of Pi

Adventure,Drama

Can fantastical film live up to bestselling novel? Reviews

Yann Martel’s 2001 novel Life of Pi divided readers: some found its wide-eyed spirituality and magic-realist invention intoxicating, while others choked on its pantheistic platitudes and winsome authorial voice. Against all the odds, Ang Lee’s epic 3D adaptation might just unite the two camps: fans will lap up the film’s dedication to capturing the spirit of Martel’s words, while doubters may well find themselves – slowly, grudgingly – persuaded by the film’s astonishing visual confidence and narrative force.

Three actors (notably teenager Suraj Sharma, recently spotted in Dubai on the red carpet to launch the film) play Pi, the middle-class lad from Pondicherry whose adolescent explorations of faith are interrupted when the container ship on which he’s travelling goes down in the Pacific. Everyone on board drowns, except for Pi and four denizens of his father’s zoo, among them a ferocious Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. The question is how long boy and tiger can coexist, miles from land and fresh water, and with precious little hope of rescue.

A word of warning for the traditionalists: Life of Pi is a film steeped in CGI, and there are very few shots here without some kind of process element. But this isn’t some sort of sickly, soupy digital phantasmagoria: Lee handles the special effects and especially the 3D with absolute surety, creating moments of jaw-dropping, eye-ravishing beauty.

Finding Neverland writer David Magee’s script isn’t quite so successful: mostly he manages to avoid both syrupy sentiment and hazy magical thinking, but a late diversion onto an island randomly populated by meerkats feels jarringly out of place, while some of the voiceover is a little heavy-handed.

But it all comes together in a blunt but forceful finale, as the scales fall from our eyes and all our doubts are cleverly addressed. It’s here that Lee stamps his claim on Martel’s work, and all that rampant visual excess comes into sharp focus. For Lee, this isn’t just a story about God, life, death and our place in the world – it’s about cinema too and how, in the modern age, it’s inextricably interlinked with everything we feel and experience. It’s a remarkable moment in a remarkable film: flawed, yes, but marvellously ambitious, and unforgettably gorgeous to look at.

By Tom Huddleston
Time Out Dubai,

Details

  • Duration: 126
  • Released: Sat, 15 Dec
  • Classification: 12+
  • Language: English
  • Director: Ang Lee
  • Stars: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan and Adil Hussain

User reviews:

Posted by: Raaj d on 29 Jan ' 13 at 07:32

Edited by TimeOutDubai.com

if an Indian kid safely goes across the ocean to Canada to live a western life, to Yan Martel, the author of the book and Ang Lee, the Director of the film, that is probably proof that God does indeed exists. To many living in today’s world, that is most probably the beneficence that they too would like a benevolent God to demonstrate. However it appears that the author Yan Martel, while searching for a story and living it cheap in India, has at least brushed past the “everything is Maya” wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita. Therefore ‘Maya’, the illusory nature of everything, or at least Yan Martel’s brief and superficial understanding of it, is what the story is about. Sadly, due to inept direction by Lee, the cinema audiences totally miss this seminal perspective. The critical two versions of the story are glossed over in the film as an inherent flippant quality of an Indian. There are other thought provoking and integral philosophical trimmings that Yan Martel had woven into the story such as the latent animal nature lurking within us; how religious teachings obstruct communion with God etc. These too have been completely lost in the movie. Lost at sea in 3D animation, the film diminishes the book’s story to that of a silly boy in a boat staving off a computer generated Tigre. The fantasy of CGI is a perfect match for Yan Martel’s story which makes us think about the illusory nature of all our experiences. However, as Director Lee doesn’t appear to have understood that fundamental aspect of the story, his decision to use CGI was probably box office oriented. And it has probably worked, because although some of the 3D images such as the elephant at the beginning, and the tiger’s whiskers are horrible, most people are seeing the movie for the 3D effects. To be fair, Lee has to be excused for not taking the time to fully understand the story. After all, a genre-hopping director can only be a Jack of many genres and a master of none. For me, Life of Pi is a film totally lost at sea. It is neither a children’s film nor a film for adults. It is an attempt to ride the box office and movie awards with someone else’s award winning story and average 3D effects. The story of Pi is great and Yan Martel has already won awards for that. Hopefully awards will not be carelessly doled out to a below par movie that latched onto it. The story deserves a better movie and I hope a second incarnation will be done by a better Director.

Posted by: PAOLO IANNONI on 06 Jan ' 13 at 13:26

A VERY POETIC NAIF MARVELOUS FILM FULL OF EMOTION AND NICE SENSIBIILITY ANG LEE IS A TRUE GENIUS AND MY FAVOURITE FILMMAKER OF TAIWAN I9 REMEMBER BROKEBACK MOUNTAINS LUXURY LA TIGRE E IL DRAGONE WON 4 OSCAR I LOVE IT. CIAO FROM ROMA HAPPY NEW EVE YEAR 2013 TO ALL THE LOVERS OF EXCELLENT FILMS. I LOVE DUBAI AND ABU DHABI EMIRATES PALACE. CHEERS.

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